Dragon Tamed

This is the companion piece to my last blog post on the Wiggle Dragon Cycle Sportive. Spoiler alert: I survived

Early Starts

Maybe somewhat surprisingly, Dave & I got to Margam Park with little hassle and minimal flaffing around, leaving Bristol at a far too early 7:15am for a night owl such as myself. I’d readied the bike and packed my copious supplies the night before; I even had the chance to tuck into a luxurious second breakfast of marmite sandwiches as we drove over the Welsh border.

As this was a ride into the unknown for me, I had three goals for the day, get round the course before my lift home got bored; not to embarrass myself too badly in front of the proper cyclists and not to finish last. Dave had loftier aims of finishing with a respectable time within top the 3/4s of the Medio Fondo finishers. Then, after bumping into another friend Gair in the event village complex, we were off, gathering speed as we swept in groups past Port Talbot and then out into the hills beyond.

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Quietly confident

Ups & Downs

The hills were, as expected, pretty brutal, but manageable given the hill climbing training I’d done (thank you Dundry!). The difference in riding through the Brecons was actually pretty noticeable though, long climbs and descents as opposed to the quick, steep ups and downs of the rolling Cotswolds, or Mendips landscapes easily accessible from Bristol. The descents were actually more problematic for me, coming off Rhigos the first climb where I was physically shaking at the bottom from the combination of the windchill, possible top speeds and need for hydration.

Note to self: must work on those descents (I blame a couple of past brake failures for my habit of being the slowest cyclist that has ever ridden downhill) and on the hoof drinks if I’m going to do this more often.

The views were impressive with the Welsh countryside basking in the summer sunshine but I have to say I spent most of the time fixated on the road surface and keeping up with the guys in front to appreciate them as much as I should. I might go back later in the summer with a camera and do a slower photo / sight seeing ride because they deserve far more!

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The Devil’s Elbow – the prettiest and steepest part of the course. This is the shallow part!

I only suffered two minor mechanical faults on route, a pothole mis-aligning my front wheel and brakes at the five mile point that gave me a scare with what I thought was a buckled wheel turning out to be a minute’s fix and my gear getting stuck on the middle chain ring on the last climb. I was lucky, I found out later that Gair’s gear changer snapped off with him in top gear 40km out – the Dragon devours bikes!

Apart from the landscape, what really struck me was how different the experience riding the event was over my solo training runs as I have never ‘raced’ and don’t belong to a cycling club. The two feed stations on routes were buzzing with life; having a constant ever changing guard of people around you gives everything a different feeling (a godsend to have a climbing buddy) and no route finding woes – just follow those red arrows (hats off to HumanRace for their organisation) and the steady stream of cyclists disappearing into the distance.

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Out on the course

There’s even cycle sign language that I was only dimly aware of previously, people flashing signs at a dizzying speed for a novice like me. Pothole! Coming through! Beware the raptors! Car! Never mind the buzzcocks!

Finishing Line

Well I didn’t slay the dragon (I think they’re an endangered and protected species in Wales – you can get in trouble for that), but I think I more or less tamed it. I completed the course in 7hrs 31mins and that put me on page 21 of 37 of the provisional results, so I actually didn’t place too badly. My companions Gair and Dave rolled in just over 30 mins before me, impressive guys.

Route Details and Stats courtesy of Strava

https://www.strava.com/activities/320464611/embed/8153149c56e5e7e0f5aa6177b1397bc037ee81fe

All in all it was a great day out. I actually felt pretty okay at the end as good food discipline (feed stations are an amazing concept – turns out I took far too much food with me) and nursing a damaged knee over the last half of the course meant I was pacing myself; had someone given me a bionic leg I reckon the adrenaline would have carried me over a fair few more miles.

I think I’ll probably try the Dragon again in some form or other, but hopefully will continue the learning curve of the last few months as well by embracing new challenges So, maybe the L’Etape du Tour next year?

Oh and you can still sponsor me at JustGiving if you’re feeling generous.

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Two cycling stalwarts – Dave & Gair – and some guy, all with precious Dragon medals.

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~ by Jack on June 8, 2015.

One Response to “Dragon Tamed”

  1. […] person, pretty competitive and have completed one  Sportive before – the not inconsiderable Dragon. However, I’m not even a club cyclist and let my cycling slip for various reasons post-Dragon […]

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